I like calamari a lot and as long as we don’t call it squid I bet you do too. However, if you’re anything like me then you don’t make calamari at home as much as you’d like to. That may be because the question of how to cook calamari can be intimidating. I’m hoping to change all that with a few calamari basics and a simple recipe for Slow-Cooked Calamari with Tomatoes and Basil.
In its most familiar forms, Calamari makes regular appearances on red-checkered tablecloths at candle-in-the-Chianti-bottle restaurants where it’s usually offered two ways: deep-fried with red sauce for dipping or tangled between strings of linguine on a Big Night style pasta plate.
How to Cook Calamari at Home
It’s easy to see why home cooks avoid calamari. First, cleaning a whole, fresh calamari is a tedious task that may require a biology major to complete correctly. Even when it’s pre-cleaned by the fishmonger it often comes in a gangly mass that seems too hard to handle without operating instructions. However, look beyond your apprehension and you’ll see an incredibly mild-flavored ingredient that’s as versatile and easy to prepare as chicken. Best of all calamari is inexpensive and sustainable. Now all you need to know is how to cook calamari properly.
I’ll admit calamari does have a rubbery rap that’s not completely undeserved. It can get tough when overcooked. The trick is to either cook it hot and fast or low and slow. If you’re too tentative with the fast method or too impatient with the slow you’ll end up with a plate of warm ABC gum. With choices as plain and simple as these, how can you resist learning how to cook calamari at home? GREG
Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
Pairs well with buffalo mozzarella, shrimp scampi, cioppino, fish, spicy dishes, herbs, salads and vegetables.
Shopping: Choose calamari that has firm, shiny white bodies and smells pleasantly of the sea. Smaller squid tends to be more tender. If your recipe calls for squid ink, it’s sold separately.
Storing: Keep fresh calamari sealed in a plastic bag and submerged in a bowl of ice water that is kept in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.
Prep: Most calamari is sold pre-cleaned. All you need to do is rinse it in cool water and dry well before cooking. If it’s not pre-cleaned, here’s a great calamari tutorial from Williams-Sonoma.
Tenderizing: It’s always best to do a little light pounding of calamari bodies even if the recipe fails to mention this. Some recipes also call for soaking them in lemon juice or scoring them lightly on one side to prevent curling. But I find 6 or 7 light taps with a wooden mallet sufficient for most preparations.
Cooking: In general it’s easiest to cook calamari quickly over medium-high heat – no more than 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on size. However, very low heat also produces exceptionally tender results after about 30 to 40 minutes of cooking (typically in liquid).